Introduction- According to the United Nations,Disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources.’

In other words, a disaster is an event that causes disruption to normal life of a society and causes damage to property and lives, to such an extent that normal social and economic mechanisms available to the society are inadequate to restore normalcy.

India is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. It’s location and geographical features render it vulnerable to a number of natural hazards including cyclones, droughts, floods, earthquakes, forest-fires, landslides and avalanches.

It is a result of a combination of a number of factors which include:

  • Exposure to natural hazards
  • Existing conditions of vulnerability
  • Insufficient capacity or measures to cope with potential negative consequences
  • Inappropriate management of risks and vulnerabilities

A hazard is a threat, a future source of danger with the potential to cause damage to:

  • People: Death, injury, disease and stress
  • Property: Damage to property, economic loss, loss of livelihood and status.
  • Environment: Loss of fauna and flora, pollution, loss of bio-diversity


Disasters can be classified into two types:

  • Natural disasters
  • Man-made disasters

Natural disasters are caused by:

  • Floods
  • Earthquake
  • Tsunami
  • Drought
  • Cyclone
  • Landslide
  • Avalanche
  • Hurricane
  • Volcano eruption
  • Cold wave
  • Forest fire

Man-made disasters can be classified as:

  • Nuclear disasters
  • Chemical disasters
  • Biological disasters
  • Pandemic emergencies, epidemic
  • Fire (building, coal, forest, oil)
  • Pollution (Air, water, industrial)
  • Deforestation
  • Accidents (Road, rail, sea, air)
  • Riots
  • Hijacking
  • Terrorism


Phase 1: Before the Crisis

Preparednessthis is the period when the potential hazard, risk, and vulnerabilities can be assessed and steps can be taken for:

  1. Preventing and mitigating the crisis, and
  2. Preparing for actual occurrence

Crisis can also be mitigated through various short-term measures which either reduce the scale and intensity of the threat or improve the durability and capacity of the elements at risk. For example, better enforcement of building codes and zoning regulations, proper maintenance of drainage systems, better awareness and public education to reduce the risk of hazards, etc., help in containing the damage.

Phase 2: During the Crisis

Emergency Response: when a crisis actually occurs, those affected by it require a speedy response to alleviate and minimize sufferings and losses. In this phase, certain ‘primary activities’ become indispensable. These are:

  1. Evacuation
  2. Search and rescue, followed by
  • Provision of basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, medicines and other necessities essential for bringing the life of the affected community back to a degree of normalcy.

Phase 3: Post Crisis

  1. Recovery: This is the stage when efforts are made to achieve early recovery and reduce vulnerability and future risks. It comprises activities that encompass two overlapping phases of rehabilitation and reconstruction.
  2. Rehabilitation: Includes provision of temporary public utilities and housing as interim measures to assist long term recovery.
  • Reconstruction: Includes construction of damaged infrastructure and habitats and enabling sustainable livelihoods.


We have described below the three phases of disaster management-


  • Response- quick response can save lives, protect property and lessen disruptions caused by crisis. This calls for a total and effective response, which must subsume the coordinated response of the entire governmental system as also the civil society. The response should not only incorporate traditional coping mechanisms, which have evolved over the centuries but also involve meticulous planning and coordination. Quick response entails the following:
  • This phase includes mobilization of necessary emergency services and first responders in the disaster area. This is likely to include a first wave of core emergency, such as fire-fighters, police and ambulance crews.
  • It entails restoring physical facilities, rehabilitation of affected families/populations, restoration of lost livelihoods and reconstruction efforts.
  • Retrospectively, it brings to light the flaws in policy and planning with respect to infrastructure, it’s location, social scheme, etc.
  • Recovery- it is an important phase which involves:
  • In the long-term aftermath of a disaster, when restoration efforts are in addition to regular services, it involves implementation of actions to promote sustainable redevelopment (reconstruction, rehabilitation).
  • It differs from the response phase in its focus; recovery efforts are concerned with issues and decisions that must be made after immediate needs are addressed. Recovery efforts are primarily concerned with actions that involve rebuilding destroyed property, re-employment, and the repair of other essential infrastructure.
  • The recovery phase starts when the immediate threat to human life has subsided. In the reconstruction, it is desirable to reconsider the location or construction material of the property.
  • Community resilience is a key factor in disaster recovery.
  • This phase encompasses three overlapping phases of 3R’s

Reliefit is the period immediately after the disaster when steps are taken to meet the need of the survivors.

Rehabilitation- these are activities undertaken to support the victims’ return to normalcy and reintegration in regular community function. It encompasses provision of temporary employment and restoration of livelihood.

Reconstruction of Disaster

It is an attempt to return communities to improve pre-disaster functioning.

  • Mitigation- it involves,
  • Measures aimed at reducing the impact of disasters
  • Efforts to prevent hazards from developing into disasters altogether.
  • Differs from other phases because it focuses on long-term measures for reducing or eliminating risk.
  • It embraces action taken in advance of a disaster to reduce its effects on a community
  • Preparedness- the strategies involved in this have the potential to save thousands of lives by the adoption of simple preventive measures. Lack of coherent disaster reduction strategies and the absence of a ‘culture of prevention’ are the major causes of increasing casualties due to disasters. Disaster preparedness has been defined as the ‘systematic development and applications of policies, strategies, and practices to minimize vulnerabilities, hazards, and the unfolding of disaster impacts throughout a society, in the broad context of sustainable development.’

It is composed of the following fields of action:

  • Policies towards risk management
  • Early warning systems with the help of latest technology relating to data capture transmission, analysis and even
  • Use of knowledge
  • Generating risk awareness with the help of mass media and social media
  • Preparation of plans for risk mitigation.
  1. National disaster management Authority (NDMA)

The NDMA is an independent autonomous and constitutionally-established disaster preparedness federal institution responsible to deal with the whole spectrum of disaster management and preparedness in the country. The NDMA formulates and enforces national disaster policies at federal and provisional levels and collaborates closely with various government ministries, military forces and united nations-based organizations to jointly co-ordinate efforts to conduct disaster management, search and rescue, and wide range of humanitarian operations in the country and abroad. NDMA has been constituted with the Prime minister of India as it’s Chairman, a Vice-chairman with the status of cabinet Minister, and eight members with status of ministers of state.

  1. National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM)

The NIDM was constituted under the disaster management act 2005. It is a premier national organization working for human resource development at the national level in the area of disaster mitigation and management. Its objectives are:

  • To undertake quality research
  • To work as a national resource center
  • To promote training
  • To build partnerships with stakeholders and other institutions
  • To link learning and action 
  1. State disaster management Authority (SDMA)

Each state has its own SDMA, headed by the chief minister. The SDMA works with a state executive committee (SEC) to assist in disaster management at the state level.

  1. District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA)

It is led by the district collector or equivalent authority and includes elected representatives from the local government. Its role is to ensure that guidelines from the NDMA and SDMA are followed at the district level.

Sources- TH, PIB, Wikipedia